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Cumbrian climber makes historic one-day ascent of three huge rock faces in Canada

West faces of North, Central and South Howser Towers, Bugaboos, BC, Canada (photo – Marc Piche)

[C]umbrian climber and adventurer Leo Houlding has teamed up with Canadian Will Stanhope to complete a historic one-day link-up of the imposing Howser Towers in Canada.

Stanhope and Houlding climbed all three west faces in a sustained push that was completed in 23.5 hours, the first time all of the iconic summits have been reached via their demanding west faces by the same team during one day.

Leo with eyes fixed on the summit of South Tower during a warm up ascent in the smoky haze from wild fires raging across British Columbia. Credit Adrian Samara, Coldhouse Collective, Berghaus

Located in the mountainous wilderness of British Columbia, the Bugaboos has long been a destination for hardcore climbers and the idea of linking the three tallest, most impressive features has been a coveted prize for years.  Will Stanhope had been contemplating it since 2009, after completing the first free ascent of the west face of the central tower.  He invited Leo Houlding, 37, who is sponsored by British outdoor brand Berghaus, to join him and the pair, accompanied by Waldo Etherington, Wilson Cutbirth and Adrian Samara, helicoptered into the East Creek base camp with 20 days of supplies in early August.

Will Stanhope, Wilson Cutbirth, Waldo Etherington and Leo Houlding on the top of South Tower. Credit Adrian Samara, Coldhouse Collective, Berghaus

Houlding and Stanhope began their climb shortly after dawn at 7:00am on 29 August on Central Tower.  Reaching the summit after four hours and twenty minutes, they then descended and moved on to North Tower, which is the highest point of the Bugaboos (3,412m). The peak forms a true alpine summit and the west face soars for 1,000m over the vast, uninhabited wilderness of British Columbia. Houlding and Stanhope reached the North Tower summit at 10:00pm and then rapidly descended the alpine north face of the peak and moved on to tackle a classic route on South Tower.  They reached the third and final summit with just 30 minutes to spare at 6:30am on 30 August.

Leo on the crux 5.10 (E2) pitch of the uber-classic, 600m, Becky / Chouinard on Sout Tower. One of the finest routes of its standard in the world. Credit Adrian Samara, Coldhouse Collective, Berghaus

Now finally back home in Cumbria after the adventure, Leo Houlding comments: “Climbing like that over such distance with a partner like Will was a joy.  Although it was a serious challenge with its fair share of hardship, it was nothing but fun.  It was a bit stressful in the run up to the ascent as I thought we may have set the bar just a bit too far beyond our reach.  However, as it turned out and in no small part thanks to Will’s incredible talent, we pulled it off.  It was the ultimate challenge, so hard we nearly didn’t we do it, but on the last day of the trip we managed with just minutes to spare!”

During the trip, the team, which included Adrian Samara of Coldhouse Collective, shot a virtual reality film on the Becky/Chouinard route on South Tower, as well as a short regular film about the link-up while training and practicing on the climbs.  Both films are in post-production.

Leo Houlding sporting the ‘Alpine’ hipster look. Credit Adrian Samara, Coldhouse Collective, Berghaus

Leo Houlding is now preparing for his next expedition.  In a major trip sponsored by Berghaus, Houlding will lead a three-man international team on an ambitious 70-day, 2000km trans-continental journey to climb the spectacular 750m south buttress of a peak called the Spectre in the Gothic Mountains, Antarctica, arguably the most remote mountain on Earth.  The team will leave the UK in early November – full details of their plans will be released in the near future.

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